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Finally taking the plunge into ceramics...


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#1 WUVIE

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Posted 23 October 2011 - 05:51 PM

Greetings, everyone!

I come humbly before you, admitting my ignorance of clay, but desperate to learn.
Though I realize I am so very far from making anything significant, I am hoping someone
might be willing to get me started in the right direction, to do things right, if nothing else.

To give you an idea of my position, this is my kiln. Resist the temptation to laugh. Or cry.

"EVENHEAT" brand. Model 5320LT. 240 VOLTS.
30 AMPS. 7200 WATTS. SINGLE PHASE.
Kiln panel suggests not firing to over Cone 8 (2300° F)
Manufactured on April 18, 1980. I purchased a manual
for it four years ago.

This is what the kiln looks like:

Posted Image

I've been using it for the past four years to make glass projects,
but only recently felt it was time to create in clay.

If anyone is able to assist in answering any of my questions, your
response would be ever so greatly appreciated. I'll beg, if necessary.

;)

I completely understand a forum's impatience with newbies, so if
these answers are found on the site, by all means, please point the
way and I'll gladly research. I've numbered my questions to make it easier in
case someone would only like to offer advice on a particular question.

I've purchased a work table, covered it with plastic, then covered
it with cotton duct. At present, the clay of choice is a Terra Cotta Clay
which is advised to fire to cone 06. My intent at this time is only to get
a feel for how the clay works, fires and glazes, so I'll be making small
things such as pinch pots, knee pots and ornaments. I have a wooden roller and
am anxiously awaiting new cones (a flood earlier this year filled my kiln supplies box)
and a set of wooden slats to make rolling sheets of clay level.

Bear with me, here come the questions.

1.) Using a cookie cutter, I tried to stamp out a few shapes. Nothing imprinted,
just basic shapes. The clay sticks to the cutter, and when the clay is pushed
out, it leaves finger prints and imprints. Just a part of life? What if I just leave
the clay in the cutter for a few days?

2.) The clay seems a bit sticky at times, and although it doesn't necessarily
'stick' to the cotton duck, it does have to be peeled off. Should I use alternate
material for the rolling / clay forming surface, or do I just need to work with the clay,
and it will develop less stickiness as it begins to lose water and dry?

3.) Is the use of a bowl of water to dip my fingers into a no-no while forming?

4.) Drying the clay. (Insert heavy sigh) I'll go ahead and just spit this out, however
silly I may sound. Do I simply allow the project to air dry by itself for about a week,
or must I regulate the drying in some way? Right now, none of my projects will be
over 1/4" thick. I've seen mention of using sheetrock for drying tiles. Is this necessary,
or just a way to decrease drying time?

And finally...

5.) What is the purpose of underglaze? I've been trying to find discussion about one time
firing for small, thin clay discs. Some people respond as though I've committed a crime, some
say 'Go for it' and yet others have suggested I use an underglaze, fire, glaze, then fire again,
which defeats the one time firing. I'm not lazy, I just thought that something so small could be
fired and glazed one time, assuming the clay was completely dry.

If you are still reading at this point, I truly appreciate your assistance. In
person, I am not as forward, so please don't think poorly of my 'jumping right
in with questions' approach. I'm just very anxious to get started, as I know it
will take years to learn.

Thank you for allowing me to join this great site!

Karen Marie

It is better to find glory in one's own merit. In fact it is more important to have self-respect than to gain respect from others,
and it is better to earn glory than to publicize it. - Madeleine de Scudéry (1607-1701)

“People of uncommon abilities generally fall into eccentricities when their sphere of life is not adequate to their abilities.”
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

#2 buckeye

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Posted 23 October 2011 - 07:11 PM

Karen, first off welcome to the forum! I have only been here a few weeks and I dont think you will have any trouble getting your questions anwsered, some really good folks around here who dont mind helping and giving advice.

I will try to anwser a few of your questions but please keep in mind I have only been doing this for about a year now.

1 - You could leave it in the cookie cutter for a few days I suppose. Clay does shrink so I would think it would come out just fine. If your wanting to cut out several pieces with one cutter though I think maybe a better solution would be to roll your clay out, let it sit out for a bit until it firms up some then start cutting, less likely to put finger prints in it etc.

2 - A lot of people use canvas, canvas works great and the clay wont stick to it. I had an old pair of bluejeans and cut them up and I roll my clay out on it, works just as good I believe.

3- I use water like crazy to shape pieces, smooth them out etc. If you watch youtube videos and they are working with clay, good chance you will see a bucket of water their also.

4 - I let my stuff air dry for days, weeks depending on the time of year, humidity etc. but you should be able to tell when it is completely dry. I would not rush to get stuff in the kiln, thats a lesson I learned very quickly on, let stuff completely dry. As far as uneven drying, If I throw a plate on the wheel or something like that where the rim drys way quicker than the bottom I will take a piece of plastic or something and place around the rim to slow the drying on the rim so it dries more evenly.

5 - I use some underglazes. I love to carve so I will throw a piece on the wheel, let it get leather hard, underglaze it then carve on it. After it is fully dried it is then bisque fired and is very dull, I then put a clear over it and high fire my stuff. That is my extent of working with underglazes.

So just keep in mind I am fairly new to pottery. I am sure some others will come along with better and more info. and be more help.

#3 bciskepottery

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Posted 23 October 2011 - 08:19 PM

A couple of suggestions in response to your questions . . .

1. Try dusting your cookie cutters with corn starch. Clay loves to stick to nonporous surfaces, like plastic and metal cookie cutters. The corn starch serves as a release. To ensure clean cuts, wipe the edges of the cookie cutter after each use, then dust with corn starch. Leaving the clay in the cookie cutter for a few days is a non-starter; the clay will not likley release evenly from the cutter sides, leaving you with a distorted/warped piece. When cutting shapes, I put my slab on a piece of newsprint on the wareboard they will dry on. The newsprint tends to hold the cookie shape down, allowing you to remove the excess clay from around it. Set the wareboard aside; minimize any handling of the cookies after they are cut out to prevent distortion and warping.

2. Your clay is probably fresh and moist. I roll my slabs using slab mats, not canvass, and I lightly dust them with corn starch to facilitate release. I keep corn starch in a set of salt and pepper shakers that sit next to my slab roller; I also have a bowl corn starch and use a large cosmetic puff to apply corn starch to surfaces that seem too moist. And, I also rub corn starch on my rolling pin when hand rolling slabs. I use very little canvass as it traps clay dust. I use 24"X24" plywood boards, 3/4" thick, as work surfaces (one for red clay, one for white clay). I also put a piece of newsprint on my working surfaces to reduce sticking.

3. For handbuilding, water in moderation is okay. More important is keeping your hands and surfaces clean and dry. For a work session, I will fill a small margarine container/bowl with water and it usually lasts the day. I mostly use it to keep my hands clean, sponge damp, and chamois wet.

4. The purpose for putting tiles on sheetrock is to keep them flat, not decrease drying time. Drying times will depend on all the variables you listed. It can't (shouldn't) be rushed. You need a slow, even drying to ensure the integrity of seams and joints; uneven or fast drying can cause joints to split/crack. Most items I make dry wrapped in plastic. I will put either newsprint or plastic on top of a wareboard so the item can move smoothly while it is shrinking. I center the wareboard on a large piece of plastic, then loosely fold two sides over the top, then tuck the opposite two sides underneath. That leaves an opening at the top that I can open/close to facilitate drying. Avoid wrapping to tightly in plastic; that traps moisture in and prevents the item from drying. Yes, it takes time. But the end result is well worth it.

5. The purpose for underglaze is decoration. Underglazes do not contain the amounts of silica and other minerals needed to form glassy surfaces. I have found applying underglazes to greenware and bisquing, followed by clear glaze and glaze firing to give me the best results. I've not tried single firing, but understand that single firing requires some changes to glazes and their application.

I remind my students that clay is not a medium for those seeking instant gratification. The clay we work with took a million years to form . . . so what's the rush? Take your time forming, decorating, and firing. You are only adding a couple of weeks to transform clay that has already been transformed over a million years to get to this point. Enjoy your time with the clay.

#4 WUVIE

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Posted 23 October 2011 - 08:30 PM

5 - I use some underglazes. I love to carve so I will throw a piece on the wheel, let it get leather hard, underglaze it then carve on it. After it is fully dried it is then bisque fired and is very dull, I then put a clear over it and high fire my stuff. That is my extent of working with underglazes.


Thank you SO much for your reply, and your perfect description of an underglaze. Thinking in terms
of carving, now I completely get it, thank you!

This forum is fabulous!
It is better to find glory in one's own merit. In fact it is more important to have self-respect than to gain respect from others,
and it is better to earn glory than to publicize it. - Madeleine de Scudéry (1607-1701)

“People of uncommon abilities generally fall into eccentricities when their sphere of life is not adequate to their abilities.”
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

#5 WUVIE

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Posted 23 October 2011 - 08:34 PM

A couple of suggestions in response to your questions . . .

1. Try dusting your cookie cutters with corn starch.


I can't tell you how much I appreciate your time and responses. Funny you should mention corn starch,
as I suggested that to my husband and his shirking shoulders discouraged me.

Thank you for all of your wonderful tips! I'm sure it will take me quite some time to get enough to fire a load
in the kiln. I'll likely smash and re-do a lot, and make many things I'll later laugh about. All in due time.

Thanks a million!

:)
It is better to find glory in one's own merit. In fact it is more important to have self-respect than to gain respect from others,
and it is better to earn glory than to publicize it. - Madeleine de Scudéry (1607-1701)

“People of uncommon abilities generally fall into eccentricities when their sphere of life is not adequate to their abilities.”
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

#6 Chris Campbell

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Posted 23 October 2011 - 08:55 PM

We love newbies!! Welcome.

1 ... Roll out your clay ... Lay a piece of dry cleaner plastic on top, press cutter down through both ... Beautiful smooth edges and the clay doesn't stick at all.

2 ... I use very heavy canvas over plastic on my table ... Have replaced it twice in 20 years.

3 ... Keeping your fingers clean is good.

4 ... Just watch your clay as it dries ... If it starts to crack you are going too fast so you might need to cover it with plastic to slow it down. But terra cotta is pretty forgiving so I would try just leaving it out and watching.

5 .... Underglazes are colors to use under glazes and sometimes all by themselves. They can be combined to make other colors and layered any way you want. The multiple firing part means that you could decorate with them and fire it ... decide you need more color somewhere, then paint more on and fire again. Some people don't want colors to overlap so,they might paint and fire a dozen times to make sure all is perfect.
The name having 'glazes' in it is somewhat misleading as they don't shine after firing and are not a glaze ... They also don't move or flow once dry.

Chris Campbell
Contemporary Fine Colored Porcelain
www.ccpottery.com

TRY ...   FAIL ...  LEARN ...  REPEAT


#7 scoobydoozie

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Posted 24 October 2011 - 07:56 AM

Hi, Wuvie! Everyone pretty much has the topic covered but thought I'd add just a bit.

Traditional underglaze is simply colored clay that is in liquid form with added colorant and is traditionally applied to greenware (unfired pieces). The instructions on commercial underglazes all recommend applying underglaze to greenware, then firing to bisque and then glazing over it and firing again. The reason for this is that greenware, when fired, releases gases from the clay. A glaze, which contains frit (raw glass), seals the surface of the greenware to an extent and hinders the escape/release of the gases. This can affect the final finish of the glaze when the glaze is put on greenware.

However, there is some leeway on this.... My rule of thumb is that in a pinch, I will apply glaze over greenware (with or without underglaze) as long as I don't cover more than 50% of the piece with glaze. I will do this is if I want to glaze only the inside of a vase, mug, etc. and leave the outside without glaze (underglaze is okay as there isn't frit or enough to matter.) In your case of the small thin tiles, I would say you are okay to glaze over the underglaze if you only cover one side of the tile. Keep in mind that you will need to take care that no glaze touches or runs on the shelf as greenware is never stilted. Use caution that you do not over wet the greenware when applying the glaze as it can still turn back to mud if gotten too wet. Not as bad as it sounds, but thought I'd add the standard disclaimers, lol. ; )

Sounds like the cost of the tiles is minimal, so try a couple in a test fire to be absolutely sure before devoting time to a large batch. If not sure, testing is always the best option. I have a small 8" x 8" Paragon kiln for glass jewelry and performing test firings.

#8 SammyJ

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Posted 24 October 2011 - 08:23 AM

Hi Karen

Welcome- I usually love to sit on the sidelines and watch all of the information flow in front of me. This time though-I am compelled to let you know what I do.
I use a chemical called "talc" from the place where I buy clay. It is the same as baby powder but without the smell...I roll most of what I attach to cups and I roll on a piece of canvas sprinkled with talc. I sprinkle talc on the top before I cut. I also use wax molds which I have created and sprinkle with talc. Works great for me.

Thank you for allowing to share what I do.
Dee

#9 WUVIE

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Posted 24 October 2011 - 10:41 AM

We love newbies!! Welcome.

1 ... Roll out your clay ... Lay a piece of dry cleaner plastic on top, press cutter down through both ... Beautiful smooth edges and the clay doesn't stick at all.


Love newbies? Whew, what a relief! Often, newbies are met with a ruler across the knuckles. LOL. Thank you so much for the warm welcome!

Dry cleaner plastic - oh, we have plenty of that, and I love that idea!
Hubby has to dress fancier than I do at work, so of course, we end up
'buying' his clothes over and over.

I can't wait to try this!
It is better to find glory in one's own merit. In fact it is more important to have self-respect than to gain respect from others,
and it is better to earn glory than to publicize it. - Madeleine de Scudéry (1607-1701)

“People of uncommon abilities generally fall into eccentricities when their sphere of life is not adequate to their abilities.”
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

#10 WUVIE

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Posted 24 October 2011 - 10:46 AM

...greenware, when fired, releases gases from the clay. A glaze, which contains frit (raw glass), seals the surface of the greenware to an extent and hinders the escape/release of the gases. This can affect the final finish of the glaze when the clay is put on greenware.


The more members respond about this, the better. Thank you so much for explaining this in a way
so as not to make me feel, well, you know. Posted Image


take care that no glaze touches or runs on the shelf as greenware is never stilted.


Oh my gosh, I'm so glad you posted this. I never even thought about this, but the time would have come.

This is exciting receiving so much helpful information!
It is better to find glory in one's own merit. In fact it is more important to have self-respect than to gain respect from others,
and it is better to earn glory than to publicize it. - Madeleine de Scudéry (1607-1701)

“People of uncommon abilities generally fall into eccentricities when their sphere of life is not adequate to their abilities.”
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

#11 WUVIE

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Posted 24 October 2011 - 10:50 AM

I use a chemical called "talc" from the place where I buy clay. It is the same as baby powder but without the smell...
Thank you for allowing to share what I do.


I like this idea! My corn starch is a staple in the kitchen, so I'm glad to hear that unscented talc is an option.
So glad you spoke up to share. Thank you! Posted Image
It is better to find glory in one's own merit. In fact it is more important to have self-respect than to gain respect from others,
and it is better to earn glory than to publicize it. - Madeleine de Scudéry (1607-1701)

“People of uncommon abilities generally fall into eccentricities when their sphere of life is not adequate to their abilities.”
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

#12 WUVIE

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Posted 24 October 2011 - 12:52 PM

A glaze, which contains frit (raw glass), seals the surface of the greenware to an extent
and hinders the escape/release of the gases. This can affect the final finish of the glaze
when the clay is put on greenware.


Hi there!

I was reading all of the responses again just to sink it into my head, and had a question
about your comment. I'm not sure I understand what you mean by the 'clay is put on greenware'.
By chance, are you referring to the underglaze as 'clay' in that sentence?

Many thanks!
It is better to find glory in one's own merit. In fact it is more important to have self-respect than to gain respect from others,
and it is better to earn glory than to publicize it. - Madeleine de Scudéry (1607-1701)

“People of uncommon abilities generally fall into eccentricities when their sphere of life is not adequate to their abilities.”
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

#13 TypicalGirl

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Posted 24 October 2011 - 01:36 PM

Woo hoo - welcome to clay Karen!
First, I think the mantra of all clayfolk is "try it and see what happens".

Your kiln is SO much nicer than what I've been firing in the last 5 years ;)
Picture yours with a nice coat of rust. Now open it and note the crumbling bricks and cracked shelves.
Now yank out half the elements, saw a hole in the lid and a couple in the floor and stick a propane burner under it. That's been me ;)
But hey! It did the job!

For cutting with cookie cutters, I keep a little dish of baby powder at hand and dip my cutter's edge into it between cuts.
But if you want absolute perfection, you might want to make one just so shape and then make a mold from that so you can reproduce it exactly.
But remember...for many people the charm and loveliness of handmade things is that you *can* see the touch of a human on them.

Drying...
The slower you can dry your clay, the more the clay likes it, but as with many things, you and the clay must meet in the middle. Too slow and you will become impatient, too quickly and the clay may rebel and crack (though you might not see that till you pull it out of the glaze firing - DANG it!).
When I lived in Mo, where it tended to be humid, I actually built a little cabinet and kept my ware in there, along with a dehumidifier so it would dry at a reasonable rate.
Here in arid Cali, I often place my ware in plastic bags to slow drying a bit.

For me, I've taken to using something called "Pelon" instead of canvas to build on. Its a thin meshy sort of material that comes in different thicknesses that I believe is used to line quilts with. It has less texture, is washable and just easier for me to work with.

Ask questions, try things to see what works for you and *have fun*!
Cathi
Cathi Newlin, Angels Camp, Ca
box49@caltel.com
http://www.CNewlin.com

#14 scoobydoozie

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Posted 25 October 2011 - 08:59 AM


A glaze, which contains frit (raw glass), seals the surface of the greenware to an extent
and hinders the escape/release of the gases. This can affect the final finish of the glaze
when the clay is put on greenware.


Hi there!

I was reading all of the responses again just to sink it into my head, and had a question
about your comment. I'm not sure I understand what you mean by the 'clay is put on greenware'.
By chance, are you referring to the underglaze as 'clay' in that sentence?

Many thanks!


Oops. Sorry about that. it should read:

A glaze, which contains frit (raw glass), seals the surface of the greenware to an extent
and hinders the escape/release of the gases. This can affect the final finish of the glaze
when the GLAZE is put on greenware.

#15 WUVIE

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Posted 26 October 2011 - 06:15 AM

[quote name='scoobydoozie' Oops. Sorry about that. it should read:

This can affect the final finish of the glaze when the GLAZE is put on greenware.
[/quote]

Many thanks, Scooby! :)
It is better to find glory in one's own merit. In fact it is more important to have self-respect than to gain respect from others,
and it is better to earn glory than to publicize it. - Madeleine de Scudéry (1607-1701)

“People of uncommon abilities generally fall into eccentricities when their sphere of life is not adequate to their abilities.”
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

#16 Idaho Potter

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Posted 26 October 2011 - 02:12 PM

I'll just post to your underglaze question. I apply underglazes to greenware and then bisque fire the work. Occasionally you might have to reapply/retouch your underglaze--if so, bisque fire your work again. Your flat tiles may allow you to glaze without refiring, but if you have any vertical surfaces, the underglaze will probably run.

#17 WUVIE

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Posted 28 October 2011 - 08:23 PM

I apply underglazes to greenware and then bisque fire the work.


Many thanks, Idaho! :)
It is better to find glory in one's own merit. In fact it is more important to have self-respect than to gain respect from others,
and it is better to earn glory than to publicize it. - Madeleine de Scudéry (1607-1701)

“People of uncommon abilities generally fall into eccentricities when their sphere of life is not adequate to their abilities.”
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

#18 EarthnElements

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Posted 31 October 2011 - 11:34 AM


Bear with me, here come the questions.

1.) Using a cookie cutter, I tried to stamp out a few shapes. Nothing imprinted,
just basic shapes. The clay sticks to the cutter, and when the clay is pushed
out, it leaves finger prints and imprints. Just a part of life? What if I just leave
the clay in the cutter for a few days?

2.) The clay seems a bit sticky at times, and although it doesn't necessarily
'stick' to the cotton duck, it does have to be peeled off. Should I use alternate
material for the rolling / clay forming surface, or do I just need to work with the clay,
and it will develop less stickiness as it begins to lose water and dry?

3.) Is the use of a bowl of water to dip my fingers into a no-no while forming?

4.) Drying the clay. (Insert heavy sigh) I'll go ahead and just spit this out, however
silly I may sound. Do I simply allow the project to air dry by itself for about a week,
or must I regulate the drying in some way? Right now, none of my projects will be
over 1/4" thick. I've seen mention of using sheetrock for drying tiles. Is this necessary,
or just a way to decrease drying time?

And finally...

5.) What is the purpose of underglaze? I've been trying to find discussion about one time
firing for small, thin clay discs. Some people respond as though I've committed a crime, some
say 'Go for it' and yet others have suggested I use an underglaze, fire, glaze, then fire again,
which defeats the one time firing. I'm not lazy, I just thought that something so small could be
fired and glazed one time, assuming the clay was completely dry.

If you are still reading at this point, I truly appreciate your assistance. In
person, I am not as forward, so please don't think poorly of my 'jumping right
in with questions' approach. I'm just very anxious to get started, as I know it
will take years to learn.

Thank you for allowing me to join this great site!

Karen Marie

[/quote]


I use WD-40 on cookie cutters or whatever I have to make impressions for no-stick. One word of warning is that if you want to attach any clay to the piece that you have cut and now has some of the oily residue from the cutter, it will not stick properly. But a good way to go for cutouts. Also if you just let the clay firm up a little bit before cutting you will have an easier time getting it to release. Have fun!

#19 AmeriSwede

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Posted 31 October 2011 - 12:50 PM

In regards to clay sticking to your cutters....

After you smooth your slab, stretch out a sheet of Saran Wrap (plastic cling wrap) or a similar brand over the top. Push your cutters through this. You shouldn't require any WD-40 either. The pieces should remain pretty much on the table and can be gently lifted off with a spatula. Leastwise they lift off my table which is stretched canvas. Also the top surface of the edges will be slightly rounded, caused by the cutters pulling the plastic taut as it cuts the shapes.

Not having a slab roller, my slabs are formed by using precut wooden slats to the thickness I require. Many ceramists do this. I roll out my slabs on loose canvas top and bottom 'sandwiching' the clay, on top of my canvas work table. I flip this over numerous times while rolling out the thickness. Each time I flip the canvas/clay/canvas sandwich I gently pull off the top canvas and flip it over to the opposite side prior to rolling again. This seems to take water out during the process and makes it easier to remove the piece from the canvas when finished.


------Rick



Above all, it is a matter of loving art, not understanding it. (Fernand Leger
)

#20 WUVIE

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 09:38 PM

In regards to clay sticking to your cutters....


Hello, thank you so much for your wonderful reply! Sadly, I have not been on
the site much, but now that I have a pottery wheel, I hope to find more time
to be involved with the members here.

:) Karen
It is better to find glory in one's own merit. In fact it is more important to have self-respect than to gain respect from others,
and it is better to earn glory than to publicize it. - Madeleine de Scudéry (1607-1701)

“People of uncommon abilities generally fall into eccentricities when their sphere of life is not adequate to their abilities.”
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe




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